Deer Park coach Carrie Austgen's team was following the San Francisco Giants' formula of winning championships in even years. The Deer won the state title in both 2012 and 2014, so they were surely going to win in 2016.
But DPHS ran into another Houston-area team, Pearland. The Oilers not only swept the Deer in the quarterfinals, but they also advanced to the state finals.
It wasn't supposed to be that way. Deer Park was ranked No. 1 in Texas for most of the 2016 softball season. And, starting pitcher Madison Nelson went 15-1 during the season to help the Deer to a 33-4 overall record.
The loss to Pearland last May was a bitter way for Deer Park to end its title chase, but the result sets up a chance at redemption this year.
Deer Park Looking For Odd-Year ChampionshipDeer Park is now looking ahead to 2017. Wait, an odd-year title chase? Yes, the team is prepared to break the pattern for another run at the 6A title.
Going into this softball season, FloSoftball ranked DPHS as the No. 3 team in the nation.
The Deer are returning Nelson and their top hitters from 2016, making this squad dangerous against other top teams in Texas.
Pearland is not on Deer Park's 2016 regular season schedule, but you know the Deer would love to face the Oilers again in the playoffs.
Coach Austgen Key To Deer Park's SuccessDeer Park has built a legacy of championship softball under Austgen. Since she took over as head softball coach in 2010, the Deer have been bi-district champion every year.
Deer Park has also been area champion four out of the last five years: 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016.
And everyone knows about 2012 and 2014, when Austgen guided her team to the state championship and won.
That legacy of success has driven the Deer Park community to produce great players to keep the line moving from one class to the next.
The Burning BeliefDescribed as her "burning belief," Austgen knows that in order to be successful each year, she has to get the most out of her players every day.
As seniors depart and the remaining players fill their roles, what worked for last year's team does not always carry over into a new season.
It's the foundation of the culture that she has created at Deer Park, producing state titles and top-ranked teams.
Now we'll find out if Deer Park can break the odd-even pattern and win the 6A state title in 2017. It would be part of the Deer's redemption story after they were denied last year's crown following another highly successful season.